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Spider-Man 2 - Sam Raimi Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. As a result of the success of this film and the first film, there’s a generation of cinema-goers who have come to see you as a purveyor of wholesome family entertainment, which is not how you began. It’s a big switch around, isn’t it?
A.
Yes it is. It’s actually my second big switch-around, because I started making home movies just as a device to explore the magic of the camera. When my father showed me home movies, when I was a small boy, I was so fascinated with it, I had to get into it. So I really began by just being interested in the technical aspects of film. The idea you capture reality and replay it, or cut it out of sequence, which was really a cool thing to do, and see time replayed in a different sequential order.
That fascinated me for years, and then I developed a love for lenses and camera movement, what effect did that have on the audience? I started thinking about the audience that watches the pictures.
Then all through High School and college I began making comedies. That’s what I would make, actually, light comedies, we would show the kids, and charge admission, a quarter, or 25 cents, and we printed tickets, and we’d pull all these quarters together and would have the money to buy more film stock for the next one.
So I only made comedies, even through college, and then my partner, my room-mate at the time, said, ‘look, we’ve been evicted from our apartment, do you want to try and find another apartment, or do you want to try and strike out and make your first feature film?’
I said, ‘well, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to raise the money’, and he assured me that we would, but ‘here’s the thing, Sam, I’ve done some research and it seems like the only way we could make a movie from the cheap amount of money we could get, that will play in the theatres, is if we make a cheap horror movie’. This time was before independent cinema had art films, or little love stories, or accepted independent movies like that. The only independents, in 1978, that I was aware of were these horror films, so I said I didn’t know a thing about horror movies. In fact, I don’t like them, because they frighten me!
I would never actually go and see them because I was frightened by them.
So my friend said, ‘let’s go see what they are, and you tell me if you think you could make one as good as that’. So I agreed, we went to the movies, and saw Halloween, and he asked ‘could I do that?’, and I said, ‘I don’t know, that was really, really good. I don’t know if I could make a movie that well’.
But then I learned later that this was a uniquely fine horror film, and I started to see other movies at the local drive-in, and I started to understand how they were put together, and what makes a suspense sequence work. So I made my first horror movie, called The Evil Dead, where no one would touch that movie, except here in London, a small company called Palace Pictures, distributed it, and made a big success out of it for a time, until it was banned.
But that success meant I was off making movies, but I was making horror films, because that’s what I knew how to do and it seemed to be acceptable. So I made Evil Dead 2, and another dark picture, called Dark-Man, and Evil Dead 3.
But I really started on horror films because I was told that was the only thing we could make that would sell. But as I grew older, I became, I developed friendships, I matured as a human being, I got married and had children, and my interests changed, and I became more interested in the stories of people, and who we are, what makes us what we are, and film is the medium for that. So I’m still interested in the technical aspects of making film, fascinated by them, in fact, but more as a device to support the stories that I want to tell now. So that’s really why I’m making these types of films now.
Plus, these films, I start to think about what I really like when I’m in the theatre. And what I enjoy so much is when there is something in a movie that uplifts me; I love that, and it’s so rare. I do feel it at times, so I’m trying to put those elements, and story points, and characters, with their movements in these films that have that effect on the audience. I really like that. But I don’t know what the future holds, my interests keep changing…

Q. Congratulations on the Box Office. There are a lot of nudge-nudge moments in the film, especially the moment when Spider-Man hurts his back, and there is a wonderful line where he says, ‘ouch, my back!’ Tell us a bit about that if you can?
A.
Well, the film had a number of writers, some credited, and some not. At this time, I was writing with my brother, and we wanted to show that Peter’s character, after being affected by what his aunt had said, he tries to overcome his psychological problems with his powers.
And he’s running, and he leaps off this roof, and we wanted to show that the powers have still failed; he’s almost got them back. So my brother said, how about we have him say, ‘I’m back, I’m back!’ And then he’ll fall, and slam down on the car and say, ‘my back, my back’!
At first I thought that was really funny and then I said, "You know Ivan, although I think it's funny, because he’s really had some back problems, maybe we’d better not’; and Ivan said, ‘not many people are going to know about that. Those few people that do, it’ll be like an inside joke for them, and for everyone else, they won’t be missing anything, they’ll just appreciate if it’s funny’. So I said, yeah, but I’m not sure Tobey would want to do it’.
But I mentioned it to Tobey, and he said, ‘yeah, that’s ok, let them laugh at me, it’s ok’. He was a good sport about it.

Q. You must have been hugely relieved that he did get better and was able to play the part. With that in mind, has it changed your perception of what physical demands number three might be for him? Has it changed the way you look at what you might put Tobey through?
A.
You’re right. I’ve already worked out the story, but I haven’t thought about that til now, actually! Now I’m worried about it! I probably should have been thinking about it. But what I will say is that he was so completely ok on the second one, it kind of became a moot point.

Q. The iconic shot of Spider-Man firing things, can you be sure that when that was designed, it’s not an offensive gesture in some cultures?
A.
Do you know something, I don’t know about that [laughs]. I hope not. I hope they understand the spirit of it.

Q. And yet the ironies seem to cross cultures. I mean, for instance, the fact that most people don’t like spiders, and yet here we have a hero who is called Spider-Man, and who has spider-like abilities?
A.
I guess anthropomorphism has always been an element in ancient religions. It’s one of the oldest ideas of gods back then, but I guess it could be translated to heroes, too.
But I think what’s even older, or more universal, is the idea that there is a power in all of us, and a side to all of us, if we were to tap into it, that we can do good, and grow beyond our limitations, and when faced with overwhelming darkness, we all have the ability to reach down inside of ourselves and pull out some courage and dignity, and hopefully overcome those obstacles.
Those stories of heroes, from the Greek myths on down, have always been with us, and I think that’s what this falls into; these super-hero stories, or stories of heroes in general. They show us how we’re supposed to be; they remind us of how we’re supposed to be, because we really already know. And when they remind us correctly, and we recognise the truth in them, they work for us, and they’re powerful, we say, ‘that’s right, I’m capable of that too. I can find some amount of courage in my life, and I can change and grow as a person’. That’s what the advantage of these stories are.

Q. Is there any sense that Darkman was sort of a prototype for these films? Was it a rehearsal for you, of this sort of Spider-Man genre?
A.
In retrospect, I think so. At the time, I was just making the film the best that I could. But in retrospect, I had learned a lot, in making that film, and I think it probably helped to enable me to make these pictures, specifically this second one, because this movie was really hard to make. I had to pull upon every piece of film-making ability that I had learned over the 32 years of making films, both non-professional and professional. I had to pull upon everything I had learned about story, in my years in television [the two years I spent there, learning about episode after episode, storyline after storyline], and I had to pull upon everything I had learned from the great actors I had worked with, like during A Simple Plan, Billy Bob Thornton and Bill Paxton, and when I worked with Russell Crowe and Gene Hackman (The Quick and the Dead). I learned a lot of different things, in different situations, but this time I needed it all, I felt.
Same with my effects experience. Had I not know what I know, I never could have survived this picture, or disciplined myself to be storyboarding, how to work with artists, or delegate authority. Everything came into play this time; this was a really hard one…

Q. So at what point did you decide that you wanted to do Spider-Man 3?
A.
When I was editing Spider-Man 2, I realised that I really am just figuring out who these characters are, and it’s taken me a long time. And I think that’s the process of directing. I never know when the movie starts who the characters are, I know what we’ve written, and I know who I’ve cast, but I only really find it in moments, unexpected moments, when the actor comes up with some revelation, or when I see a scene performed and I get some deeper understanding of what it’s really about. It comes in little bits and pieces.
So around the editing of this picture, I really felt that I had a really good sense of who this fella was, finally. And there was still so much more to know about him. And that I was naturally curious about what was to become of him and his love; if they could survive this next phase that they are about to enter. So I sort of said, that’s the best reason to direct the picture; you can’t have any better combination for a director, both some knowledge of who they are, and a curiosity for what they become.

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